By Beth McLaughlin, Kate Kostohryz, Jackie Naginey Hook and Evelyn Wald, May 3, 2020
Dear State College Community,
Hi, how are you?
No, really, how are you?
On any given day, and often in any given hour, this question may be answered in very different ways. Our sense of wellness, including emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can shift quickly when fear and stress and uncertainty are our constant companions.
People describe this global COVID-19 pandemic as an ‘unprecedented time’ in all of our lives. But what does an ‘unprecedented time’ really mean? Many of us aren’t sure, yet the normalcy of our daily lives has been overturned.
No one could have imagined this.
Many in the community have lost jobs and income, a sense of security and safety, a dramatic shift in daily routines, loss of privacy and personal space, missing the close proximity to family and friends, and the loss of opportunities for socialization and worship. Individuals and families are struggling with the transition of managing school and work from home and questioning their competencies.
Not to mention the changed format of graduation and milestone celebrations, the suspension of performances and sporting events at PSU and in the community, fundraising and volunteer events, the cancellation of Arts Fest and People’s Choice, and the economic threat to local businesses.
What losses are you facing?
The natural response to these losses is grief. That’s the thing about grief – it’s not just about when someone dies. We carry our accumulated losses around with us and when faced with a disaster like COVID-19, a traumatic event or an overwhelming experience, our bodies, minds, and emotions remember and relate, unconsciously connecting the dots and drawing the shape of these losses. The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. No wonder we feel overwhelmed and inarticulate at times!
Current grief can call up and remind us of past losses we’ve had in our lives. People carry felt experiences in our bodies and grief can manifest in our physical health and emotional wellbeing. Grief is universal but is experienced uniquely by each person depending on their culture. Emotionally, grief can be expressed as sadness, fear, agitation, anger, disbelief, guilt, and frustration just to name a few. What range of emotions have you felt recently?
Grief can also influence our cognitions, causing obsessive or anxious thoughts and worrying. What thoughts have been running through your mind lately? Grief can manifest in behaviors like difficulty concentrating and feeling motivated, changes in sleep and appetite, addictions, and irritability. How has grief impacted your current behaviors?
One thing is certain about an ‘unprecedented time’ – no one knows exactly what to do because no one has gone through it before. We do know our wellness is being affected in many ways. We are all trying to figure it out minute by minute and hour by hour. What works one day may not work for another. What works for one person may not work for another.
So, how can we help ourselves?
During these trying times, we can remember compassion for ourselves and for others. We need to stay connected. Now more than ever, we must rely on relationships. Some days we do better than others, and that is okay. People in our community are making donations, sewing masks, sending cards and letters and videos, and doing countless other things to help others and to stay connected. Helping others helps ourselves.
Let’s keep talking and connecting. With this in mind, we want to invite you to join us for the Wellness of Grief during the Pandemic: A Virtual Gathering on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 from 4:30 – 5:30 PM via Zoom. Go to www.kochfuneralhome.com and under Local Resources, click on Bereavement Gatherings & Events page for more information. To register, email Jackie@JackieHook.com.
If you are struggling to find hope and feeling alone, reach out to a professional who can help. You can call 1-800-CAN-HELP for immediate resources.
Day by day WE ARE making it through TOGETHER.
Beth McLaughlin, Kate Kostohryz, Jackie Naginey Hook and Evelyn Wald
This column is coordinated by www.learningtolivewhatsyourstory.org, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
This article was published in the Centre Daily Times on May 3, 2020.